About her and the team

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A South African winemaker we featured in one of our shows recently told me that he gets stopped in the street by people saying, “oh, I know you, you’re on that show with that crazy French woman”. 

I had been looking for an easy name to remember - people can’t pronounce my last name and can never spell Isabelle properly  - but I was stumped. Stumped that is until I told my genius friend Michael the story of the winemaker and he said 'well, there you have it, you are THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN'! It took me a little while to love it too but it is such a brilliant name and so slowly but surely I became THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN. 

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THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN isn’t about being crazy mad but rather about being outside the box and promoting wines that are non-conventional, that are about authenticity of taste. Wines that really are natural, unlike the plethora of marketing spiel we get fed on a daily basis. No additives, no forcefully made wines, shoehorned into fitting fashionable tastes and flavours. Us wine professionals have become experts at describing flavours stemming from added yeasts & oak chips; texture stemming from gum arabic, powdered tannins & micro-oxygenation ; flavour intensity stemming from reverse osmosis ; describing colours made more intense thanks to Mega blue or brighter thanks to charcoal filtration etc. You get the picture. On this website less is more. I want to promote farmers who, despite all the setbacks and the glowing dollar signs on the other side, take risks and pour their heart and soul into making wines without any additives and who farm their land in a sustainable way.

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We need a rethink. We are becoming further and further removed from the authentic taste of nature.

We shy away from strong flavours. We have lost the know-how of collecting wild herbs and mushrooms. When was the last time you picked up a piece of fruit and really thought about what it smelt like? Or stuck your nose in a fennel bush and really registered its fresh, heady aniseed aromas?

We are lost in the bland world of tasteless, cellophaned food. I know this is changing as witnessed by the rise of farmers markets and organisations like Slow Food. And it’s in no small part thanks to celeb chefs who have made us think. If you talk to this nation’s top cooking talent, you’ll find they spend hours sourcing the best ingredients. A small Michelin starred restaurant might have up to 90 different suppliers and 25 people in the kitchen just to make sure they give you an extra-ordinary taste experience. Then they’ll pour shit wine to accompany your dish.

The revolution has started in food; the same needs to happen in wine. We need to think about the wine we drink, start asking questions, demand clarity. I know it sounds clichéd but lets drink less but  drink better. Let's drink real wine.

I am out to convert every wine drinker out there. A tall order and probably unrealistic but I'm damn sure going to give it a go.

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What to expect from wines I pick…

I prefer fresh and elegant wines to big and bold. I am not a big fan of oak, it really needs to be well integrated and in the background. Most of the wines I drink aren’t particularly alcoholic but when they are, if the alcohol level tops 14 or more, I will make sure the wine is in balance. If it isn’t, I won’t feature the wine on this site. I am a demanding taster so if the wine falls short I will say it like it is.

Most importantly, every wine I feature, without exception, is a wine I drink and a wine I want in my cellar. So you can trust that if it’s here, it’s worth a shot.

And every wine I feature on this site is a natural wine or is at least trying to head that way in that they value and respect a truly sustainable philosophy. They will be at the very minimum organic or biodynamic in the vineyard. These wines, if not natural because they aren't low intervention in the cellar, will be clearly labelled as such.

At work at my great-grandparents' vine nursery

At work at my great-grandparents' vine nursery

My great-grandparents would spend winter grafting baby vines onto American rootstocks and come Spring they'd plant them in their nursery. Here they are doing just that. Check out my great granny in the middle.
MY BIG BROTHER & HIS BOYS

MY BIG BROTHER & HIS BOYS

My brother took over from my dad and maybe one day one of my nephews will follow suit.
HARVEST '71

HARVEST '71

As you can see we have lots of shots of everyone at harvest time.
MY DAD IN HIS 'KITCHEN'

MY DAD IN HIS 'KITCHEN'

Every winter, my dad would disappear into his workshop where he'd distill day and night solidly for 3 months. It's a 24 hour work day once distilling begins so he'd literally move in, bed and all. This is the first step...
ME AND MY BASSE-COUR

ME AND MY BASSE-COUR

I loved playing out on our farm with the hens, ducks and geese. In those days there were no PS2s or Nintendos. Instead I'd spend my days collecting walnuts or picking snails out of the flower beds to feed the ducks. And...
MY FAMILY HARVESTING

MY FAMILY HARVESTING

Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins... My whole family lives in two neighbouring villages (bar a couple of cousins who like me left for the big city). We eat garlic, play the accordian and do actually wear berets. My...
MY FOLKS IN THE VINEYARD

MY FOLKS IN THE VINEYARD

My mum's kneeling down and my dad's got the giant metal backpack on. it's for carrying the harvested grapes. You load it up, take it to the grape trailer and offload your cargo by bending forwards - and bingo, you don't...
PAPI RAYMOND

PAPI RAYMOND

My grandpa at work. Harvesting is hard physical work - you're up at the crack of dawn and back at dusk, snipping, carrying and offloading all day. But, it's honestly great fun. Everyone's out together, eating together,...
HARVEST '96

HARVEST '96

Twenty odd years later and as you can see not much has changed! Except that the tractor is slightly bigger.
HARVEST '75

HARVEST '75

At harvest, everyone was involved. Even me, at three. I'm the one in the Where's Wally-esque jumper.
GREAT-GRANDDAD EUGENE

GREAT-GRANDDAD EUGENE

He'd wander around the countryside with an alambique (big copper pot for distilling alcohol) on the back of his horse and cart, making homebrew for all his mates.
CAMPING

CAMPING

All my childhood summers were spent camping in the Gironde Estuary on the west coast of France. We'd collect oysters and catch crabs for dinner, but my favourite was cooking mussels in pine needles. Our version of BBQ.
At work at my great-grandparents' vine nursery
MY BIG BROTHER & HIS BOYS
HARVEST '71
MY DAD IN HIS 'KITCHEN'
ME AND MY BASSE-COUR
MY FAMILY HARVESTING
MY FOLKS IN THE VINEYARD
PAPI RAYMOND
HARVEST '96
HARVEST '75
GREAT-GRANDDAD EUGENE
CAMPING

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I am French, I taste for a living, and I recently rediscovered wine.

After years learning about wine, working in wine and tasting bucket loads of the stuff - from the cheap and cheerful to bottles worth a building in some parts of the world - I seem to have come full circle. All I want is real, delicious, natural wine.

I do lots of stuff outside wine but my favourite thing is mushrooming (although I’m also quite fond of looking for stuff: old bottles, fossils, gold hunting, wild food...). I love the outside and I love finding treasure. So in a way natural wine is easy for me to understand because I am so used to harvesting proper, wild bounty, complete with all its imperfections and irregularities. It’s nature’s perfect way of adding personality, individuality and adventure to life, and consequently, to food and drink too. Every year I spend days watching the sun / rain / heat so I can be the first into the forest for mushrooms. No two years are ever the same, so it’s always exciting. Nature isn’t predictable, it’s not controlled, and it’s definitely not boring. I love it.

There is also a more serious side to that crazy French woman. I am the first French woman Master of Wine and I sometimes wear suits, especially when I visit my corporate clients with Wine Lab. The rest of the time I live in jeans, t-shirts and trainers.

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I am a country-bumpkin.

When I was little I’d spend my days picking walnuts, making jams, driving the tractor and helping out with the vines but it wasn’t until 2000, after a good teenage strop and an i-don’t-want-to-be-like-mum-and-dad, that I realised that my heart lay in its roots. My brother’s a vigneron (French for ‘grape growing winemaker’); my folks were vignerons; both grannies and granddads were vignerons; and all my great-grandparents were too (except one who spent his life blending Cognac)… Basically, we’ve all always been nuts about grapes. And, being from Cognac, a lot of what is harvested makes its way into the pot-still.

I started in the vineyard when I was only a few months old – my mum would put me in a basket at the end of one of the rows while she tended the vines and would run back every so often to check I was OK. By the time I was 6, I’d graduated to packhorse, spending days dragging bits of dead vine back to the farmhouse to cook Sunday lunch.

As seasons past and I grew up, I started to work the vintages: harvesting, stomping grapes for our homemade brew or gasping for breath between brotherly dunks into a vat of fermenting juice. Then, at the beginning of summer, when all the other kids were out buying ice-lollies and going to the fun fair, I was back in the vineyard hitching the vines up so they’d stand straight and tall.

At eighteen I swore blindly that no way in hell was I ever going to work  vineyards again so off I went. Clearly didn’t last long. (If you still want more biog check out my press bit).

189

See video
See video

I recently redid the wine list at Hibiscus, Claude's 2-star Michelin Restaurant in Mayfair (London). The list is now all about showcasing delicious natural wine - a first for a Michelin starred restaurant in London....

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Metro - Destination France - 'A grape escape back in time'

Metro - Destination France - 'A grape escape...

"There are people going back to ploughing with horses, which is really great,' says Isabelle Legeron, France's only female Master of Wine and a passionate proponent of natural wine, the movement that is taking...
The Independent - 'The case for natural wine' - 12 May 2011

The Independent - 'The case for natural wine...

"We need a rethink," says Isabelle Legeron, the Master of Wine and former Wine Woman of the year, who is the driving force behind a move back to natural wine. She believes the new initiative, which has persuaded dozens...
Food and Travel Magazine - 'The Cradle of Wine - Georgia' - May 2011

Food and Travel Magazine - 'The Cradle of Wine...

'I set off for Georgia in June 2010, to film my new show, That Crazy French Woman - In Georgia having heard vague whisperings about Georgian wine traditions. But I never expected it to be quite as ubiquitous as it is,...
Georgia Today - 'Travel Channel's 'Journey into Wine' features Georgia' - April 2011

Georgia Today - 'Travel Channel's '...

"Traditional kvevri wine is my favourite," Legeron told Georgia Today while visiting Tbilisi in October. "It is a unique technique - a pure and original way of making real wine. I really liked a number of kvevri wines...
Info - French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain Magazine - 'Loving wine... naturally!' - April/May 2011

Info - French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain...

'For me, discovering natural wines was like falling in love with wine all over again. I was tired of technically sound but aromatically boring wines, which tend to taste too much the same. Natural wines are the closet...
Harpers Wine & Spirit - 8 April 2011

Harpers Wine & Spirit - 8 April 2011

'MAKING A CASE FOR NATURAL WINE' by Carol Emmas Great article on natural wine. See Isabelle's clarifications here that Harpers published online.
"Pairing Natural Wines at Hibiscus" - Wine & Food Matching with Fiona Beckett

"Pairing Natural Wines at Hibiscus" - Wine...

"One of the things that most fascinated me about Claude Bosi's recent decision to list so many natural wines at his London restaurant Hibiscus is how they would work with two Michelin star food. Yesterday I got a chance...
"What's Orange Wine?" - Wine Naturally - 17 Feb 2011

"What's Orange Wine?" - Wine Naturally...

This is Fiona Beckett's (of Guardian fame) blog on orange wine the day I introduced them to her. Hibiscus is the first Michelin starred restaurant in the UK to list mainly natural wines but also to have its very own...
Guardian.co.uk - 9 February 2011

Guardian.co.uk - 9 February 2011

This is all about my work at HIbiscus where I totally redesigned the wine list in autumn 2010.
Decanter - April 2010

Decanter - April 2010

Here is a piece I wrote for Decanter.com on natural wine. It's quite tricky getting the conventional wine press to cover natural wine so this was actually quite an achievement.
Big Hospitality - 21 December 2010

Big Hospitality - 21 December 2010

Hibiscus' new wine list.
Georgia Today - 22 October 2010

Georgia Today - 22 October 2010

They got a few facts wrong but never mind. It's UK-based Travel Channel and the show isn't going to be part of Journey into Wine but a whole new series called THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN IN...
Metro - Destination France - 'A grape escape back in time'
The Independent - 'The case for natural wine' - 12 May 2011
Food and Travel Magazine - 'The Cradle of Wine - Georgia' - May 2011
Georgia Today - 'Travel Channel's 'Journey into Wine' features Georgia' - April 2011
Info - French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain Magazine - 'Loving wine... naturally!' - April/May 2011
Harpers Wine & Spirit - 8 April 2011
"Pairing Natural Wines at Hibiscus" - Wine & Food Matching with Fiona Beckett
"What's Orange Wine?" - Wine Naturally - 17 Feb 2011
Guardian.co.uk - 9 February 2011
Decanter - April 2010
Big Hospitality - 21 December 2010
Georgia Today - 22 October 2010
Melita Guide - January 2009

Melita Guide - January 2009

"It is a real foray into the unknown. They have a wealth of indigenous grape varieties that are capable of producing highly individual and characterful wines. I hope they continue to focus on producing wines from this...
The Box (South Africa) - Of Food, Wine and Detection

The Box (South Africa) - Of Food, Wine and Detection

When we launched the Journey into Wine series, we got lots of coverage in South Africa. I think there were a total of 158 pieces written about just the show in regional and national press that were read by more than 2...
SA Times - May 2007

SA Times - May 2007

"Wine is such a living and passionate product... it is not something to be put into an intellectual box." In those days, I didn't realise just how 'living' or indeed 'dead' wine could really be. It's strange looking...
Time Out - 1000 Things to do in London

Time Out - 1000 Things to do in London

Although I was the higest ranking wine entry (which is pretty great), turns out I'm less of a catch than a £3.50 lunch at Rasa! I have had their veggie trays in the past and I have to say, they weren't bad at all.
News of the World - 6 May 2007

News of the World - 6 May 2007

We were also one the News of the World's "Best of the Hour" in their Big on TV.
Fine Wine - June 2009

Fine Wine - June 2009

This one is all about my Wine Woman Award title.
Daily Telegraph - 8 May 2007

Daily Telegraph - 8 May 2007

And a few days later another one came out again, only this time I got to sandwich Nadal.
Daily Telegraph - 5 May 2007

Daily Telegraph - 5 May 2007

Way, way back when we launched our very first series.
Decanter - September 2009

Decanter - September 2009

This appeared in Decanter's Chile Supplement in September 2009.
Radio Times - 31 May to 6 June 2008

Radio Times - 31 May to 6 June 2008

"So what is it about Aussie winemakers that attracts her? 'They don't give a rat's arse about the Old World's austere ways of doing things', says Legeron, displaying a tendency to say exactly what she thinks" (Radio...
BORS (Hungary) - 24 September 2008

BORS (Hungary) - 24 September 2008

I was in the Hungarian daily, BORS, talking about my show on Hungary.
La Revue du Vin de France - November 2009

La Revue du Vin de France - November 2009

This appeared when Isa became the first French female MW.
Melita Guide - January 2009
The Box (South Africa) - Of Food, Wine and Detection
SA Times - May 2007
Time Out - 1000 Things to do in London
News of the World - 6 May 2007
Fine Wine - June 2009
Daily Telegraph - 8 May 2007
Daily Telegraph - 5 May 2007
Decanter - September 2009
Radio Times - 31 May to 6 June 2008
BORS (Hungary) - 24 September 2008
La Revue du Vin de France - November 2009

SOME MIGHT THINK 'THAT FRENCH WOMAN...A LITTLE CRAZY COO-COO', WE PREFER 'CRAZY OUTSIDE THE BOX'

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Meet Pierre Legeron – or Pierrot, as he was more commonly known. He was a hard-working grape farmer, who played so much football at the weekend they decided to name the village stadium after him. He was a regular kind of guy and a totally brilliant dad. He taught me to drive the tractor, how to care for our fruit trees that he treasured, and to collect wild food all over the French countryside. He never went anywhere without his pocketknife in case he stumbled across wild oysters or mussels ripe for harvesting, and his days of planting were inevitably followed by trips to the seaside with my brother and I to fish for crabs, razorclams and shrimp.

One of my fondest memories is seeing him scurrying off into the early morning mist to catch us a hare or a pheasant for supper; his shotgun in hand, his pointers and griffons galloping behind.

He was a born farmer. He loved planting and growing and spent years tending the orchard, the vines and his garden where he planted Table grapes of all colours, shapes and sizes.

160 He loved the great outdoors. He was young and fit and healthy. And he died of lung cancer, aged 60.

He’d never smoked.

His lungs were so riddled with tumours that he died within 3 months of diagnosis. Turns out it may have been a direct result of the chemicals he so painstakingly sprayed in the vineyard.

As I read and searched and found out more and more about proper, natural wine, it dawned on me that his death was not only avoidable but futile.

 

He was a victim of marketing spiel and had fallen for the ‘know-how’ of large chemical retailers who, understandably from their point of view, had shareholders, profits and the bottom line as their primary concern.

In the end, his herbicides, fungicides and pesticides not only meant that his beloved vines became dependent rather than self-sufficient but, with the birth of systemics, the sprays may actually have made their way through the core of his plants and into the wines themselves. For someone who so loved the wilderness and its natural bounty, I think he’d turn in his grave if he could see what we see now.

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JB

JB

This is the brilliant Jean Baptiste, or as we call him JB. He has actually built this WHOLE website himself. And since there's no other one quite like it out there that we know of, he had to invent all the programming....
Ian

Ian

Wonderful Ian. Really, really wonderful Ian Perkins. He's been our designer, art director, creative director... basically the eyes and fingers on all our projects. He's another W+K man like Michael and he's so much more...
Michael

Michael

Beautiful Michael Russoff. He's the genius behind our brand. In fact he's a genius fullstop. Honestly. His head doesn't work like other people's. He used to be one of Wieden + Kennedy's top Creative Directors, seems to...
Ged

Ged

Our gorgeous Ged Cleugh. Self-shooting Producer/Director extraordinaire. He's made quite a few of our videos with us and we love him.
Deborah

Deborah

Deborah. Co-founder of THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN. Couldn't do without her.
Isabelle

Isabelle

...or Isa as I am more often called. I'm THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN. You already know lots about me so I asked the Team to write what they thought. "Isa? She's France's only female MW and a total wine nut. She wants all...
JB
Ian
Michael
Ged
Deborah
Isabelle